Adoptee Citizenship BEFORE Children in Family Security Act

To our U.S. Congress: Pass the Adoptee Citizenship bill before even considering any other international adoption legislation.

A new bill, the Children in Family Security Act (CFS Act), has been introduced into Congress to “ensure a diplomatic focus on keeping vulnerable children in the security of a family.” My first impression, and I am not a lawyer, is that the bill would require the U.S. State Department to promote, as a diplomatic mission, the adoption of children from other countries to the United States.

The bill does not, unless I am wrong, focus on preserving families, preventing children from entering institutional care, finding in-country relatives to foster or adopt the children, providing micro loans to help families keep their children, or increasing funding for equitable medical care around the globe.

The CSF Act supporters are listed as the National Council for Adoption, American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, Bethany Christian Services, Nourished Hearts, Center for Adoption Policy, and Gladney Center for Adoption.

During National Adoption Awareness Month, I posted every day about adoptee-centric, adoptee-led organizations, I must point out that none of the above orgs are adoptee-led or adoptee-centric. Neither are they international birth parent-led nor international birth parent-centric. They are adoptive parent-centric and adoption agency/lawyer-centric.

Here’s the thing: I am an adoptive parent, and I love my children more than I can say. Like the sponsors and supporters of the CFS Act, I also support keeping children out of institutions. Primarily I support family preservation to do that, which is I realize an enormous task. I get that. And I argue that we need to re-adjust our priorities and our funding to eliminating the reasons children end up in institutions: poverty, lack of education, lack of decent or any health care, job training, child care.

Speaking of priorities, however, here is my take on the Children in Family Security Act. Don’t even begin working on that until the Adoptee Citizenship Act is passed, and all international adoptees have citizenship. All of them. Some don’t even know they are not American citizens. Bring the deported adoptees back home; some of them are in their 40’s and 50’s. Some have died by suicide; some have been killed. Congress: Prevent more deportations; prevent more families from being torn apart.

Then we can all turn to the CFS Act and other legislation.

First, though, if you’re going to promote international adoption, grant citizenship to all international adoptees.

https://www.blunt.senate.gov/news/press-releases/blunt-klobuchar-introduce-children-in-family-security-act

Deported Adoptees: NAAM

This is day 17 of National Adoption Awareness Month, so this is my daily post to amplify the voices of adoptees.

Most people, when they think of international adoption, think of cute little babies and children (mostly Black and Brown) arriving at the airport and then living forever with their loving adoptive American families.

They don’t think of an 8-year-old Korean boy abused repeatedly by his adoptive father, who chained the boy outside on a dog’s metal leash stake and beat him, then locked him back in the closet where he was given bread and water. The boy grew up and served in the U.S. military, including a tour in Kuwait, defending America’s interests.They don’t think of the 10-year-old Ethiopian boy adopted by an American soldier, a single dad. who brought the boy to the US where he had his own pizza business as a young man. They don’t think of the 6-year-old boy from Morocco who grew up in the South and now speaks with a Texas drawl. And they don’t think of the little girl born in Jamaica whose leg was amputated due to cancer when she was in high school. All of them have been deported back to their birth countries, because they are not, to their surprise, U.S. citizens, despite having entered the country legally as the children of U.S. citizens.

Mike Davis, adopted from Ethiopia in 1976, deported in 2005. His wife and children live in the U.S.

The rest of the story here is that they, as many young Americans have, committed crimes and then served their time in U.S. jails or prison boot camps. Unlike the biological children born here, the adoptees were deported because, through no fault of theirs, they had not been given citizenship. The wrong paperwork was filed, or their parents thought they had automatic citizenship, or someone (not the adoptee) dropped the ball and maybe didn’t even realize it until too late.

Imagine being 30 or 40 years old, and suddenly ending up in a country where you don’t speak the language, can’t get an ID, can’t get a job, and have no family or friends. That soldier who served in Kuwait ate garbage for a few weeks after he arrived in South Korea, living under a bridge for weeks. He’s now 50 years old, rejected by his birth country for not being Korean enough, and by the U.S., for not being American enough.

Also-Known-As, an adoptee-founded, adoptee-led nonprofit, is among the organizations working to change this. They recently held an online event “Deported, Not Forgotten,” where four adoptees talked about their lives before and after deportation.

Also-Known-As created this brief YouTube video so you can hear their voices and see their faces. Listen to them tell their stories.

Then contact your Congressional representatives and Senators and ask them to sponsor the Adoptee Citizenship Act. You can find information here via the Adoptee Rights Law Center, which is led by an adult adoptee.

Advocating for citizenship for all international adoptees will take only a few minutes.

Also, if you can, please donate to the fundraiser for deported adoptees. Any amount will help, of course. $25 could pay an adoptee’s Internet for a month. $900 could pay for an airplane ticket so a wife, son, daughter, or sibling can visit their family member. Imagine the psychological and emotional hardships of being sent away from the country you thought was yours; the financial hardships are tremendous as well.

If you support adoption, and believe in National Adoption Awareness Month, help pass the Adoptee Citizenship Act for all adoptees, and also donate to support those who have been deported.

“Deported, Not Forgotten”: NAAM

Tomorrow (November 16, 2021, 6pm est) Also-Known-As is hosting an incredibly important event featuring four adult adoptees who were deported back to their country of origin, having lived their lives adopted by US families and thinking they were American citizens.

“Deported, Not Forgotten” will be hosted by Dr. Amanda Baden, who will talk with four adoptees who were deported back to countries where they had no family, friends, language, or connection. If you believe adoption is forever, if you support citizenship for adoptees, or if you care about adoptees, please pre-register and attend this free program at 6pm, east coast time.

Listen to adoptees. Support citizenship for all adoptees.

Adoptees For Justice: NAAM

This is day 3 of National Adoption Awareness Month, so this is my daily post to amplify the voices of adoptees.

Most people outside the adoption community are often moved by stories of babies and children being adopted internationally, brought to new families, and growing up as proud Americans. It’s the Hallmark narrative, and there are elements of truth to it.

Another less well-known truth is that some of those sweet children grow up not knowing that they’ve never received U.S. citizenship. They don’t learn that truth until they go to vote, or apply for certain financial aid programs, or commit a crime, whether a petty one or a serious felony. Like others (such as biological adult children) who have committed crimes, these adoptees serve their time and handle the consequences. But then, some adoptees, who know only America as their home, are then deported.

it is an outrage. It undermines the heart of adoption, and it is shameful that our United States Congress has yet to enact new legislation to provide citizenship for all international adoptees. I don’t think any other country has failed to do this the way that we have.

The organization Adoptees for Justice has been working to change that. They’ve advocated for the Adoptee Citizenship Act to grant U.S. citizenship to all international adoptees, a status that should have been automatic.

I hope you will visit their website and their Facebook page, for updates and actions. I hope you will contact your federal representatives and ask them to support the Adoptee Citizenship Act, and urge others to do so as well.

Another Lawsuit By An Adult Adoptee: Guatemalan Adoptee Sues Orphanage

Alex Guibault, a 28 year old adoptee from Guatemala, has recently sued his orphanage Casa Aleluya for violent physical and sexual abuse. Alex now lives in Canada, having been adopted at the age of 19. He spent about 12 years in the orphanage: the police placed there at around 7 years old. The lawsuit alleges “vile, violent, and horrendous acts” against Alex and other children in the orphanage, which is, according to a CBC article, run by “Build Your House on the Rock, a Louisiana based Christian group.”

One of the Build Your House programs is Casa Aleluya, a 501(c) 3 non-profit “providing medical, educational, and spiritual care for children and a loving place they can call home. These children grow up healthy and happy while learning the love of Christ.” Their website shows several former children who grew up at Casa Aleluya as Ministry Leaders now. The orphanage can have more than 500 children receiving care at any given time. Over 6000 abused and neglected children have received food, shelter, education, and hope in the more than 30 years since the orphanage was founded, according to the website.

Alex was adopted by a Canadian family several years ago, though he is apparently still working on getting Canadian citizenship. He spends time in Guatemala, including helping children who live on the streets and in other difficult circumstances. The lawsuit will likely takes years to make its way through the courts.

I titled this post “Another Lawsuit by an Adult Adoptee” for a reason. While adoptive parents have sued adoption agencies for various reasons over several decades, adult adoptees have brought fewer lawsuits. That is changing. While I would not say there is a massive trend, I would say it’s a bellwether of sorts.

Here are some examples:

Nine adoptees from Mali who were raised in France filed for fraudulent adoption.

Three Ethiopian adoptees successfully had their adoptions annulled. Two of the adoptees had been raised in Denmark; one grew up in the Netherlands.

Kara Bos, a Korean adoptee raised in the U.S., filed and won a lawsuit in Korea to be recognized as a daughter of her biological father.

Adam Crapser, a Korean adoptee raised in the U.S., filed a lawsuit against both Holt Children’s Services and the Korean government for “gross negligence. The first hearing was held in Seoul in August 2019. Crapser, who had a childhood full of abuse by adoptive families, was deported to Korea in 2016 due to criminal charges and the fact that he did not have U.S. citizenship.

In Alabama, the brother of an adoptee tortured for years by adoptive parents filed a lawsuit against the parents. The adoptive parents have been convicted and are in jail for two years, then probation for three. The adoptee weighed less than 55 pounds at 14 years old.

In 2017, Sixties Scoop Survivors (babies born to “unwed mothers” and scooped from their mothers at birth) reached an agreement with Canada wherein Canada will pay between $500-800 million in restitutions. Funds are intended to go to indigenous children adopted in the 1960’s by non-indigenous families in Canada, Europe, and the U.S. The restitutions are for the loss of their cultural identities, family, and communities.

In the U.S., the quest by adoptees for their own Original Birth Certificates (OBC) and for their medical history has often involved litigation, court cases, and money. This is a struggle that has gone on for decades.

All international adoptees should have been automatically granted citizenship, but that is not the case. The legislation for citizenship has not yet been approved by the U.S. Congress, and that is an outrage.

This is not an exhaustive list, though neither is there an enormous amount of litigation by individual adoptees. Litigation is an expensive, draining process, financially and emotionally; state and federal legislation can be slow and tedious, requiring a great deal of time and effort. Still. That adoptees are filing lawsuits and legislation at all is a shattering of the traditional narrative around adoption, and these adoptees must have their truths honored. My heart aches for every one of them, but that is not the point. We in the adoption community cannot dismiss the harsh and unfair experiences of some adoptees who had no agency in their adoptions and who were part of the societal understanding that life would be better because of adoption.

When International Adoptees Grow (Way) Up—and Apply For Medicare

For international adoptees now in their 50’s and 60’s, here’s a potentially disastrous concern:

When applying for Medicare, naturalized citizens (such as international adoptees) need to present their naturalization documents and birth certificate to the Social Security Adminstration.

Why could this be a problem? Some international adoptees nearing Medicare age (65) do not have U.S. birth certificates. They may not have needed them as kids the way that schools and sports teams require them today. Their adoptive parents may not have applied for one for them.

And then, of course, there is the much larger issue for international adoptees whose adoptive parents failed to get them U.S. citizenship.They do not qualify under the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, which provided citizenship only for adoptees 18 and under at the time of enactment. Some international adoptees could have great difficulty getting enrolled in Medicare when they are in their 60’s and older, and in need of prescriptions, surgery, and other medical care. As U.S. citizens, they are entitled to apply for Medicare like everyone else: if they have the right documents.

My experience around immigration-related issues and the Social Security administration is that different federal offices in different states can have different requirements for paperwork. It’s not unusual for one person to need documents in one state that are not requested in another state, or even within the same state. Very frustrating, and not unusual.

Here is advice from licensed Medicare broker, and Korean adoptee, Kara Min Yung, who alerted me to this issue:

“Please start the process at least 3 months prior to the month you will turn 65. Don’t wait, in case you are required to do anything additional. You must start part A. You can also start part B, but there is a premium. You can opt to delay part B until coverage through an employer ends. Then choose either a supplement plan and a drug plan, or a Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug plan. Don’t wait. There are certain late enrollment penalties you will want to avoid.”

Kara recommends that adoptees nearing 65 make sure they have their U.S. birth certificate and their naturalization/citizenship papers. She has helped naturalized citizens who have had problems getting Medicare, whether adoptees or not. You can contact Kara at Kruh@seattleinsgroup.com.

Korean adoptees first began arriving in the U.S. in the 1950’s. Many are in their 50’s and 60’s (or older) now. They and other international adoptees are applying for Medicare benefits now, and some are encountering unanticipated problems. This will only continue as the adoptee population continues to age.

You can check out the Medicare site for further info.

Adoptees and parents of minor adoptees should check with the Social Security Administration to be sure they are listed as U.S. citizens. Our federal government agencies don’t share databases, so even if you have a passport (U.S. State Department) or a Certificate of Citizenship (U.S. Department of Homeland Security), the SSA may not have you listed as a U.S. citizen.

Additional Resources on Citizenship for All Adoptees: Adoptee Rights Campaign

I am calling on the U.S. Congress, the U.S. State Department, and the U.S. Social Security Administration to perhaps finally understand the need for U.S. citizenship for all international adoptees. Deportation is a risk. Criminal charges for (unknowingly) voting without citizenship is a risk. Being unable to apply for financial aid is a risk. Being unable to access Medicare if you are applying at 65 is a risk. It’s an outrage.

 

Great News: Adoptee Citizenship Legislation Introduced in US Congress

Thousands of now-adult international adoptees whose parents failed to get them citizenship when they were children might now become U.S. citizens. On March 8, a new Adoptee Citizenship bill was introduced in both the House and the Senate, with bipartisan sponsors. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo) and Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) introduced the Senate version, S. 2522.  On the House side, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) introduced H.R. 5233.

Both bills have been referred to the Judiciary Committee in their respective chambers. The text is not yet available, though it should be soon. I will post it as soon as possible. The description of both says the bill will “provide for automatic acquisition of United States citizenship for certain internationally adopted individuals.”

The Child Citizenship Act (CCA) of 2000 provided citizenship for adopted children under the age of 18 at the time the Act became law. Those who were over 18 were not included in the bill. According to a press release from Sen. Blunt, “The Child Citizenship Act (CCA) left thousands of international adopted children, who are now adults, in an untenable position, facing everything from difficulty applying for a passport to possible deportation…By fixing current law to meet the original goal of the CCA, we will help ensure these individuals have the security, stability, and opportunity their parents intended for them when they welcomed them into their families.”

The legislation would grant citizenship to international adoptees unless they have been found guilty of a violent crime and been deported. This exception has been a point of much discussion and contention around the legislation. Some 20+ international adoptees have been deported, some due to serious crimes, and some due to relatively minor crimes such as selling small amounts of marijuana. Others are under the eye of the Department of Homeland Security because they are without citizenship, but have not committed any crimes. There currently exists no easy or clear path for these adoptees to become citizens once they are over 18 years old. Some did not discover they were not citizens until they applied for a passport or for security clearance at work.

The Adoptee Rights Campaign (ARC) estimates that 35,000 international adoptees are without citizenship, and they will be helped by this much-needed legislation. ARC has been among the leaders on this legislation, along with many others who have urged Congress for years to enact this into law.

Next steps could be hearings, then passage in both the House and Senate, and then signature into law by the president. No one knows the timeframe, but many folks are optimistic that the bipartisan, bicameral introduction of the Adoptee Citizenship Act will help it pass expediently.

That’s certainly my hope. That thousands of international adoptees, brought to this country to join new families, did not automatically receive citizenship because their parents failed to get it or because of bureaucratic errors, has been an untenable, unfair reality that the Congress has taken far too long to rectify. This new legislation would provide a long overdue correction, one wanted by the sending countries, by the adoption community, and by the adoptees.

You can follow the progress of the House bill here, and the Senate bill here.

US Government Announces Plans to Track Social Media Use of Immigrants–Including International Adoptees

The United States government has announced a proposal to track the social media use of all immigrants, which will include international adoptees.

It’s chilling for its ramifications on free speech, privacy, and individual rights, with very little evidence to support ostensible benefits in terms of national security or anything else.

International adoptee enter the United States on visas, as the adopted children of U.S. citizens. They were not granted automatic citizenship until 2000, and even then their parents have to complete more paperwork for proof of citizenship. Meanwhile, as a result of the intercountry adoption process, the U.S. government and the sending country have files of information about the adoptee, the birth/first family, and the adoptive family. Info on the birth/first family may be limited, in the case of abandonment. Still, there will be police reports, the location of where the child was found, efforts made to locate parents, that sort of thing, some of which may be accurate. My point: The government has information about all adoptees at their time of entry into the United States.

Now, our government would like additional access to the social media use and more of all immigrants, which will include permanent residents and naturalized citizens.

According to Buzzfeed, which may have been the first to report on this, “The Department of Homeland Security published the new rule in the Federal Register last week, saying it wants to include ‘social media handles, aliases, associated identifiable information, and search results’ as part of people’s immigration file. The new requirement takes effect Oct. 18…This would also affect all US citizens who communicate with immigrants.”

I don’t want to be paranoid, but nor do I want to be naïve. This is as slippery a slope as we have been on in years, and the likelihood of perilous sliding is frightening.

Here are my thoughts on how the new requirement could affect adoptees and adoptive families:

  • While the federal government already has a lot of information about adoptees, this requirement opens many new doors. I belong to a Facebook group of parents of internationally adopted children and some were commenting on how ridiculous to track the Musicly and other social media accounts of their young children.

Probably. But here’s the thing: we all leave permanent footprints on the World Wide Web. More than that, children grow up. As teens and as young adults, adoptees–like every other teen/young adult–might make stupid choices in their social media use. The difference is that their use could be tracked, and potentially used against them, because they are immigrants, not beloved family members, in the eyes of our government.

 

  • The adoptive parents of some adult international adoptees failed to get citizenship for their children. Some adoptees are painfully aware of this, having been arrested and/or deported. Some adoptees think they are citizens but may not be. Some adoptees find out they are not U.S. citizenship when they register to vote, or apply for Social Security benefits, or get arrested. This new requirement could create a database which flags the social media use of international adoptees who are not citizens, and the ramifications are deeply troubling.

 

  • Parents and friends of immigrants could be surveilled for their social media interactions with adoptees and other immigrants. I am guessing this could happen regardless of the citizenship status of the parents and friends. See: slippery slope.

 

  • In the case of international adoptees, this requirement subjects U.S. citizens to be monitored because they legally entered the U.S. as immigrant children. The same government that approved them to be citizens is now singling them out to be monitored and surveilled. Is this what it means to be a citizen of the United States now? Is it simply a matter of time that *all* citizens, such as those of us born here, will also have our social media use monitored? Who knows? Who thought we would be at this point?

Here’s an excerpt from Fortune magazine:

“The proposal to collect social media data is set out in a part of the draft regulation that describes expanding the content of so-called “Alien Files,” which serve as detailed profiles of individual immigrants, and are used by everyone from border agents to judges. Here is the relevant portion:

The Department of Homeland Security, therefore, is updating the [file process] to … (5) expand the categories of records to include the following: country of nationality; country of residence; the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Service) Online Account Number; social media handles, aliases, associated identifiable information, and search results.

The proposal follows new rules by the Trump Administration that require visitors from certain countries to disclose their social media handles, and allow border agents to view their list of phone contacts.

Those earlier measures alarmed civil rights advocates who questioned whether they would do much to improve security, and worried other countries would introduce similar screening of Americans. In response to the latest effort to collect social media data, the American Civil Liberties Union warned of a “chilling effect.”

“This Privacy Act notice makes clear that the government intends to retain the social media information of people who have immigrated to this country, singling out a huge group of people to maintain files on what they say. This would undoubtedly have a chilling effect on the free speech that’s expressed every day on social media,” the group said in a statement.

The new rules are currently subject to a comment period until Oct. 18 but, if they go into effect as planned, they will add yet more data to “Alien Files” that can already contain information such as fingerprints, travel histories, and health, and education records.”

 

So what to do? We all need to comment. You can comment anonymously (though these days, I wonder it that is actually possible; apologies for the cynicism but there we are.) You can post comments on behalf of someone else.

 

You may submit comments, identified by docket number DHS-2017-0038, by one of the following methods:

Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.

Fax: 202-343-4010.

Mail: Jonathan R. Cantor, Acting Chief Privacy Officer, Privacy Office, Department of Homeland Security, Washington, DC 20528-0655.

My closing thoughts for today:

Please comment on the new rules, and share the information.

Adoptive parents should make sure that their children have all possible proofs of citizenship, especially the Certificate of Citizenship issued by the Department of Homeland Security, the same agency issuing these new rules.

Adoptive parents should join adult adoptees in demanding that citizenship be granted to all international adoptees. More information is available here, here, and via the Adoptee Rights Campaign.

If you are tempted to dismiss this as overly reactive, keep in mind that many internationally adopted children have been deported as adults. Some adoptees are in detention centers. Who would have thought that international adoptees, brought here as children with the approval of two governments, could be deported back to countries where they had no family, no language, no connection for help?

As we get more information from ACLU, from attorneys, and from immigration policy specialists, I will post information here or on Twitter (@LightOfDayStory).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

State Department/CIS Stakeholder Call on Adoptee Citizenship Issues

The Office of Children’s Issues (OCI) of the U.S. State Department and the Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) held a “Stakeholder Meeting Call” Monday primarily to discuss citizenship as related to international adoption.

My takeaways:

  • I give credit to State and CIS for holding these public stakeholder conversations.
  • Surely adopted children, who grow up and are now (adopted) adults, must be considered to be the primary and most essential stakeholders in calls and conversations like this.
  • I believe that there were three adult adoptees who called in. I appreciate their sharing their time and voices, as well as personal expertise. There were also agency service providers and at least one adoptive parent (me).
  • The U.S. federal agencies involved with intercountry adoption are understandably focused on adopted children and the legal process for their adoption and citizenship. That said, there is a large community of now adult international adoptees who need the assistance and resources of the federal government to become citizens after their parents failed to do so.
  • The Department of State and the United States Citizen and Immigration Services need to better coordinate their services with and for international adult adoptees. Adoptee groups should receive the same attention and outreach as adoption service providers and adoptive parents. That attention should be evident on their web pages. Their officers should be better educated about the Child Citizenship Act, the Adoptee Citizenship Act, and the genuine experiences of adult adoptees. There should be consistent information provided by State and CIS staff across the country about citizenship issues for adoptees.
  • While there is voluminous information available about how to adopt on the State Department website, the information for adult adoptees is sparse indeed. In fact, the page for adoptees has not been updated since November 2014. It references on-line resources, but there are no live links. I hope they update the page soon, so it is actually helpful for adopted adults.

Here is my unofficial summary of the phone call, with the caveat that there were a number of folks from State and from CIS on the call, and I wasn’t always sure who they were and who was speaking.

General Information Not Related to Citizenship

State has authorized a new accrediting entity, Intercountry Adoption Accreditation and Maintenance Entity. IAAME joins the only other organization approved for Hague accreditations, the Council on Accreditation (COA). IAAME emerged from the Partnership for Strong Families, a child welfare organization in Florida. State and IAAME are still working out the distribution of labor, and IAAME is not yet accrediting international adoption agencies.

Suzanne Lawrence is taking over for Susan Jacobs as the new Special Advisor for Children’s Issues at State. Ms. Lawrence spoke briefly about her career as a consular officer and how she looks forward to this new position.

Trish Maskew, who handles adoption issues at the State Department, then responded to previously submitted questions:

Croatia: Adoption service providers (ASPs) may soon be authorized to work in Croatia.

China: New regs have not yet been released by China’s Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption on the hosting program and on the one-on-on partnership between ASPs and orphanages.

Ethiopia: It remains unclear why Ethiopia closed adoptions in May 2017, and they continue to work on “cases in progress.” It is unclear what “cases in progress” means, and State is actively seeking more clarity.

Kazakhstan: The Kazakhstan government continues to request post-adoption reports from adoptive families before they will reauthorize agencies to work there. There are some 225 families who have yet to submit post-adoption reports.

Citizenship Questions From People Who Called In

The State Department staffers then took questions live from callers. One question was about a family which dissolved an adoption before finalizing and before getting citizenship for a child who arrived on an I-4 visa. State said that the child would be ineligible to apply for citizenship for two years (I guess that time frame means the child has to be placed with a new family for two years before he/she becomes eligible for citizenship.)

Another question was whether international adoptees needed both a passport and a Certificate of Citizenship (CoC) as proof of citizenship. The State Department said that no federal law requires a citizen to bear proof of citizenship. That said, a U.S. passport is proof of citizenship, as is the Certificate of Citizenship. Someone from State said that one was not better than the other.

That is technically true, I would agree, but in practice, many adoptive parents and adoptees have found that the Certificate of Citizenship (which is approved by the Department of Homeland Security) is increasingly requested to prove citizenship, whether at the Department of Motor Vehicles or to obtain insurance or for other circumstances. I wish the State Department had been more forceful about this, but given that they are the ones approving passports, they may not have strong feelings about the CoC. Anecdotally, we are seeing many adoptees needing the CoC as proof of citizenship. It never expires. It’s well worth getting.

The most powerful question came from an adult adoptee from Iran, who has worked with the Adoptee Rights Campaign (ARC). The State Department folks asked about ARC, saying they did not have their contact information. This shocked me, as ARC is a well-known group leading the charge on citizenship for all adoptees. The State Department folks said they’d be happy to hear more about ARC, and gave the adoption@state.gov email address.

The Iranian adoptee asked how to bring the lack of citizenship to people’s attention—how to create a sense of urgency. She shared that her adoptive father is dead; her adoptive mother is 80 and could die soon. The adoptee is worried about working, about keeping her job, about her finances, and about retirement. She noted that many people working in immigration are unfamiliar with the Child Citizenship Act, and said to the State officials, “We (adult adoptees lacking citizenship) need your department to step up.”

State responded that they held a Congressional briefing a week ago. (I’ve had trouble finding information about the hearing; if anyone has a link or attended the briefing, please let me know.) Maskew said that the Office of Children’s Issues is very proactive on the issue of citizenship for adoptees, and has heard that Congress is planning to reintroduce adoptee citizenship legislation.

Maskew emphasized that State has offered to help adult adoptees, and that they have heard from adoptees with a range of scenarios including children who came here as visitors, or for medical purposes, and then were adopted. State said they cannot respond to hypothetical situations. (I would guess that would be questions like What if I get arrested? Or What if someone tells ICE that I don’t have citizenship?) State said they are doing all they can, and again provided their email address: adoption@state.gov.

A staff person from Hope International agency in Texas asked about the processing times for Certificates of Citizenship. What is the average timeframe for DHS to issue them? Carrie Rankin of CIS told the caller to refer to the website where people can check their case status. Processing times vary by office, she said.

I am hearing that the issuance of CoCs is taking many months, sometimes well over a year. The CoCs currently cost $1,170. Information on how to apply is available here.

A caller asked which federal department tracked the number of intercountry adoptees who are not citizens. Neither the State Department nor CIS has these numbers. The caller asked if there is a list of adoptees deported since 1954. She was told that ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) might have a list like that.

The best source that I am aware of for that information is Pound Pup Legacy, which has a wide range of data around international adoption, including deported adoptees.

Then it was my turn. I started by saying I was surprised that the State Department and CIS didn’t know about the Adoptee Rights Campaign, per the earlier conversation with the Iranian adoptee. I reiterated the sense of urgency for citizenship for all adoptees, especially in our current political climate where immigration status is so complex. I then said I was puzzled about why the citizenship issue for legally adopted people is such a controversial issue. Maskew responded that the controversy seems tied to the criminal activity that can result in anyone who is not a citizen–which can include adoptees–being deported. She noted that the numbers of adoptees in need of citizenship are numbers that the adoptee community has put forward–some 15,000 to 35,000 people. Some in Congress may conflate the number of adoptees needing citizenship with the numbers who have committed crimes. I’ve posted many times about the absurdity that international adoptees, whose immigration to the United States was agreed to and overseen by both the U.S. and the sending country, are not all automatically U.S. citizens. It is a shameful part of our government’s responsibility not to provide citizenship to all international adoptees.

I also asked about the comment that the Certificate of Citizenship and the passport being equal, and said that we are hearing increasing examples of adoptees needing their CoC, and not just the passport, as proof of citizenship, for insurance, for the Department of Motor Vehicles, for sport travel team purposes, and for other situations. State and CIS noted again that both are proof of citizenship, but the CoC never expires. I noted also that the CoC is issued by the Department of Homeland Security, and the passport by the State Department. The two databases are not shared, and increasingly the CoC seems to be requested as proof of citizenship. I have written about this issue multiple times as well; information is available here.

A caller from the Korean adoptee group also-known-as asked if there is a clear set of guidelines for adoptees to use in order to get citizenship, beyond sending an email to the State Department. CIS said there are resources available on-line, and suggested that folks should also consult an immigration attorney.

The caller then suggested a case management system for adult adoptees trying to get citizenship, which I think would be a great idea. My take: State and CIS provides resources to Adoption Service Providers and adoptive parents–why not equal resources for adoptees, who are Adoption Services Recipients?

I had the sense, listening to this caller, that he was asking specifically about adult adoptees, but that State and CIS were responding as if to an adoptive parent. State and CIS referred the caller to their website for Adoption News information for adopted children. They said there is a list of low-cost and no cost attorneys, and that there is a CIS office in almost every state. They provided a CIS phone number to call: 877-424-8374, which is the National Benefits Center.

They noted that most legal issues are handled by the Department of Homeland Security, and not so much by State. That is certainly true, as it is officers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which falls under DHS, that are in the news for deportation raids and other actions.

An adopted person from Haiti called in, asking when adoptees stop being adoptees. She noted that she is in her late 30’s, and when she is dealing with immigration issues, it is as if she is coming to the U.S. for the first time, not as someone who was adopted as a child by U.S. citizens. Her experience has been that immigration officers often do not understand adoption, or the experiences of internationally adopted adults, and often are unable to help.

The caller also asked about post-adoption reports: Were they supposed to be from adoptive parents or from the adopted persons themselves? My take: I’m pretty certain the caller knew that post-adoption reports are to come from parents, but her point in suggesting that adoptees submit post-adoption reports is an excellent one. It would be great if both the U.S. government and the sending countries were genuinely open to receiving such reports, if not in fact making them mandatory.

Information on post-adoption reports to the State Department is available here.

I welcome comments and responses, especially from others who listened in or participated on the call.

Phillip Clay’s Funeral: Grieving for Him and For So Many

I never knew Phillip Clay, a Korean adoptee. I had never heard of him until reading about his suicide. I now wonder if his legacy, rooted in sorrow and tragedy, will be to awaken our own U.S. government to the travesty that is the denial of citizenship to all international adoptees.

The Korean television channel MBC (Munhwa Broadcasting Company) aired footage from Phillip’s funeral. If this doesn’t break your heart, I am not sure what would. You will see other Korean adoptees, including Adam Crapser, who speaks eloquently about Phillip’s life and death. The video from the funeral is available here. My heart aches for Phillip and those who loved him. May he rest in peace and in power. 

Phillip Clay’s Funeral

What a price Phillip paid for having been adopted from Korea to the United States, an action that is supposed to be one of joy and a better life. Our American government deported him, because it does not automatically provide citizenship to adoptees who were under 18 as of 2001 (the year the Child Citizenship Act took effect), and whose parents failed to get citizenship for them.

Adam Crapser, one of many adoptees at Phillip Clay’s Funeral Service

Our American government, which approved Phillip’s adoption from Korea, which had all paperwork from the adoption agency Holt International and from his American adoptive parents, still  stands by and lets other adoptees be deported. Understand that those who were deported committed crimes for which they served time in U.S. jails.

 

Then, having been fully and legally adopted by U.S. citizens, they were deported, because they did not have U.S. citizenship, through no fault of their own.

Outrageous on every level. Unethical, irresponsible, and cruel.

I can only imagine that the countries of origin think about this. The U.S. has deported international adoptees not only to Korea, but to Brazil, German, India, Mexico, and many others. What kind of country sends back internationally adopted people to a country where they don’t speak the language, have no family and no connections, and can never return to the U.S.?

Here’s a thought for sending countries (as well as adoption agencies, nonprofits, government officials, and prospective adoptive parents–all those who are concerned about the decline in numbers of internationally adopted children): How about demanding that the U.S. government provide retroactive citizenship to all international adoptees before any other children are brought to the U.S. for adoption?

Many adoptees are angry with Holt, which I have been told had legal guardianship of Phillip. That is an arrangement I have never heard of, though it could well be accurate. In any case, there is increasing anger and action against Holt and other adoption agencies, which could be seen as complicit in the deportation of adoptees. The agencies may or may not have been adamant in insisting that parents get citizenship for their children. Adoptive parents must be held accountable for failing to get citizenship for their adopted children, whether through ignorance, neglect, or willful and cruel refusal.

For years, the U.S. Congress has been sitting on legislation to provide retroactive citizenship for all international adoptees. Will they shake their heads, saying, “Yes, it’s sad, but we can’t do anything,” or will they say that adoptive families are legal and genuine families who deserve the same protections as other families?

Will it take more deaths to provoke action that grants citizenship to all adoptees?

Phillip Clay’s Funeral Service

 

More information about adoptee citizenship issues is available at Adoptee Rights Campaign.

I want to acknowledge Dear Adoption for sharing the video of Phillip’s funeral. I highly recommend Dear Adoption as a site for anyone open to learning about adoption from the perspective of adopted people. Brilliant, powerful essays available there.